Assistive writing - StepWrite
This project aimed to assess the effectiveness of an assistive writing software application with a broad range of children on the autism spectrum. It extended work undertaken in the earlier project Overcoming difficulties with written expression which developed digital resources to investigate research aims focussed on improving the quality and length of written expression of children on the autism spectrum. The project employed video modelling, assistive technology and Self-regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) techniques in resource development. These techniques were embedded into prototype software that scaffolds persuasive writing activities for children on the spectrum. Preliminary analysis of data from the project showed that independent use of the software led to improvements in written expression – as measured by NAPLAN marks (written text marked by experts) and word length – for all children in the study. The improvement over a handwriting baseline was remarkable for some (e.g., double the NAPLAN mark, three times the word count). Additionally, feedback from teachers indicated strong support for the software and observations of improved writing and greater motivation to write for those children involved in the study. Teachers also flagged the value of the software for other children who find writing tasks a challenge.
The objectives of this project were to:
- further develop the software so that it is ready for commercial release
- conduct an in-situ evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the application during classroom use with a broad range of children on the spectrum
- develop effective teacher and parent resources that align with app activities
- engage children on the spectrum and autistic adults in the process of improving the existing resource.
The co-designed iPad app, StepWrite, was released in 2021 and helps children improve their writing, addressing many of the challenges associated with fine motor and perceptual skills required for handwriting. It also helps with conceptual and language skills required for written composition. StepWrite’s motivating game-like features guide kids through a range of scaffolded tasks that improve their competency and confidence while capturing writing outcomes. There’s plenty of room for fun and flexibility with users able to set personal preferences and choose different modes. The app is most suitable for children aged 8-12 years (Grades 4-7) and can be used at home and in the classroom.